African countries gang up, use exorbitant charges to frustrate Air Peace — Onyema


By Abiodun OBA


African countries have allegedly ganged up to frustrate Air Peace from operating seamlessly into their home countries with airport charges.

The Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, confirmed at the 48th Annual General Meeting and exhibition of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) in Lagos.

The airline chief who exonerated Ghana from the aero politics, maintained that all other African countries where Air Peace operates, have continued to use exorbitant airport charges to frustrate Air Peace from operating into the African market.

Onyema said while these African airlines operate flights into Nigeria without limitations, reverse has been the case as their home countries write to Air Peace not to fly into their country.

Whenever Air Peace challenges this decision in court, the countries would reluctantly allow Air Peace to operate but afterwards use exorbitant airport charges to frustrate the airline.

“It took us four years to get approval to fly into a West African country, but their airline has been coming into Nigeria for many years. When we eventually started flying, they wanted to chase us away with exorbitant airport charges. They told us to pay $12,000 per landing. We cannot implement SAATM in a lopsided way and expect it to work.

“Some countries we fly into send us bills running into millions of euros. When we ask them how we incurred the bill, they won’t respond. We made payment and after making payment, they told us the account we paid into no longer exists and we need to make a fresh payment. I have never seen a country as welcoming as Nigeria, but we are being stigmatised in other countries”, Onyema said.

He also disclosed that another African country asked Air Peace to pay four million euros as charges incurred but when Air Peace asked them how they arrived at the charges, they got judgement against Air Peace in a French court.

The Air Peace chairman said the advantage Air Peace has over other airlines is that Air Peace is flying people from other States in Nigeria to London via the Lagos airport, thereby saving passengers over N200,000 they would have paid on local destinations after arriving at Lagos airport.

“We studied to find out why Nigerian airlines failed on the London route, we know the issues and we addressed them. It is not totally the fault of Nigerian airlines. If I didn’t go to the media to expose what Gatwick and other airlines were doing to us, we would not have lasted on the Lagos-London route for two weeks,” he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of aviation and aerospace development, Festus Keyamo, represented by Hassan Tai Ejibunu, a director in the ministry, said that the theme of this year’s AGM and exhibition “Unlocking Africa’s Economic Potential: Travel and Tourism as Catalyst for Intra-Africa Business, Investment and Trade,” is very apt as it is sync with the visionary thought of African leaders to integrate and facilitate trade and investment among the 55 countries of the African Union and eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in the continent, through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

AfCFTA, Keyamo maintained, is the world’s largest free trade area which objective includes free movement of people and capital. With a combined GDP of an estimated US$3.4 trillion, the pact links 1.4 billion people living in different parts of the continent.

He said the underlying objectives behind the creation of AfCTFA cannot be totally achieved without the contribution of Associations like NANTA in the continent, as they facilitate the movement of people, goods and services.

The Minister said the five-point agenda, which are in tandem with the renewed hope agenda of the President are to “Ensure strict compliance with safety regulations and continuous upward movement of Nigeria’s rating by ICAO, support for the growth and sustenance of local businesses whilst holding them to the highest international standard in the aviation industry, improve infrastructures in the aviation industry, develop human capacity within the industry and Optimise revenue generation for the federal government.”

Also speaking at the event, Susan Akporaiye, said when NANTA was confronted by the high fare pandemic out of Nigeria, it reasoned with the government and stakeholders to address the issue.

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